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Directed by Tom Dey.
Written by Keith Sharon, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. 
Starring Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  3/19/02 


I will admit it:  the preview for "Showtime" was damned good.  William Shatner diving across a car hood, with Robert De Niro commenting "Nice job, TJ"??  The pairing of De Niro and Eddie Murphy?  Rene Russo?  Sold.

Laura and I decided to catch it at the Coronet here in San Francisco last night, and this was some pretty entertaining stuff.  But, it wasn't as good as the trailer.

De Niro plays a veteran LA detective that is trying to track down a foreign gunrunner when he runs across a beat cop (Murphy) that has detective aspirations.  Meanwhile, a down-on-her-luck TV producer (Russo) needs a hit show fast, and in the above-the-law veteran she mines the idea for a reality-based "Cops" rip-off that features the black-and-white cop pairing that just might be a hit.  So, after some brief cops-on-TV training by the show's director, William Shatner (playing himself, post-"TJ Hooker"), the pair discover chemistry and criminals as they track down the arms dealer.

There are some great scenes in "Showtime" but man, are they isolated.  Amongst the highlights are all of the scenes with Shatner, who might be the biggest ham in show business but you have to respect a man who clearly knows it.  How the producers convinced Shatner to play himself isn't important--that they got him to hilariously slide across a cop car hood is just about the funniest scene in the film.  (That, or when he teaches Murphy how to test cocaine.)  Frankie Faison, Mos Def, Kadeem Hardison and a few others make funny appearances, while Murphy and De Niro get better as a team as the film goes on.

Wasted here, though, were many more opportunities to play up the clichéd buddy-cop film and go for the jugular.  "Showtime" only does that in one scene, near the beginning, where Murphy auditions for a cop show and agonizes over his just-killed hypothetical partner by talking about how he was "just getting ready to get out" of the police force.  Many of the jokes fall flat, and Russo's character is such a waste that it is a wonder why she took the role.  For an action-comedy, this film has a surprising number of deaths and more gunfire than some R-rated films...which is fine, except that this is PG-13.  Part of that has to do with the integral plot point, a high-tech machine gun that fires rounds the size of cigars and leaves holes in objects three times the size of a pancake.  Having cheesy action music matched with Mos Def running around firing this gun is an odd sight, indeed.

Entertaining, but pretty vanilla.  Please note that this is the odds-on favorite for Worst Soundtrack of the Year.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09